Joe McHenry remembers social life when he was growing up

Resource Type: Audio | Posted on 20th February 2012 by Liam Physick

Joe McHenry talks about his social life when he was growing up. He mentions pubs, and how the men would play pitch and toss, keeping an eye out for any police offiers! He also recalls newspapers, street singers, bombed sites, escapology and cinemas. According to Joe, the saying “this is where I come in”, derives from the practice of entering a cinema halfway through the film (as soon as any seats became vacant) and then watching again from the beginning until you reached the point at which you had entered. Finally, Joe notes how people then would never move far from their families, unlike today.

Interviewee: Joe McHenry

Interviewee Gender: Male

Date of Interview: 1st December 2011

Interview Transcript

Joe: , And a pub on practically every corner, of course, up and down the road . . . Sunday lunch times was prime time cos the men of the district would play pitch and toss, with several men on lookout cos it, it was, it was gambling and the, the, the police would, would, you know confiscate the money, I guess, and, and, and, and book them. So, and, and small children weren’t allowed anywhere near, they’d chase off the children as well . . .

Jodie: Yeah.

Joe: . . . but you could watch from a distance as they, they were playing this game, and then there’d be a, someone would shout, you know, “Scuffer!”, and everybody would dive for cover. (Jodie laughs) Yes . . . but it, it, it was completely different to, to, to what we have today – I’m not saying it was any better, I’m just saying it was different.

Jodie: Yeah.

Joe: They used to have two Saturday evening papers for the sporting, used to come down the road selling papers. Me dad always used to send me out with a, with a couple of papers (indecipherable), and the other thing I remember from being a small boy was singers in the streets, this must have been after the War, and people would come round – men, usually – would come round singing, and then knock on door for a penny or whatever you could give them, and there was a well-known expression in Liverpool at one time, and people used to, when anybody would start singing, someone else would say, “Give ‘em a penny and you will go in the next street”, and that’s where it comes from . . .

Jodie: Oh, right.

Joe: . . . because of these, these men who used to go, and the barrel organs, cos they, they used to come round too, didn’t see any with any monkeys on, mind (Jodie laughs), but, but they did have barrel organs coming down the streets . . .

Jodie: Oh, right.

Joe: . . . but of course there was no, there was no work in them, people were poor, I mean, think we’re poor now, they were poor then . . .

Jodie: Yeah.

Joe: . . . and, and if you went downtown to somewhere like T J Hughes in London Road, I mean, there were lots of, particularly on corners for some reason, where the houses had been bombed, there’d be just level ground, and buskers used to get on these places, and they used to do all kinds of things, but the most popular one was escapology – one man would manacle another with chains, and all around his body, and wrist, and cufflinks and – cufflinks – handcuffs and put him in a sack and then hang him upside down and then two minutes later he’d come out of the sack with, you know, having done all the chains and (Jodie laughs), and then they’d go round with a hat . . .

Jodie: Aw!

Joe: Yeah, there were lots of . . . I don’t know what they’d call them . . . turns, acts . . .

Jodie: Yeah.

Joe: . . . yeah, things like that, yeah . . .

Jodie: Performers.

Joe: . . . same as you went to the cinema, there’d be always somebody playing out, to the queue outside the, cos there was always queues at the cinemas. They used to go, they used to do silly things now when I think about it. If the television is on, the programme’s started, I’m very loath to start watching it, cos I like to see the beginning, and yet when I was a boy and young man, you could go to the cinema and they’d let you in as there were vacancies, so as two came out, they’d let two in, so you’d join the film halfway through and then you had to see the end of it and see the beginning, and that was one of those expression (sic), this is where I came in, meaning that’s where you joined the film, and that’s where it started . . .

Jodie: Oh, yeah.

Joe: . . . so you’d get up and leave then, most peculiar, cos I wouldn’t do it now, but we just accepted it then, that, that’s what you did.

Jodie: Yeah. Very strange, that, the way you did that (inaudible)

Joe: Yeah, we had a, of course there were a lot of cinemas then, there was one just up here called the Tunnel, that was, I used to go there on a Saturday afternoon sometimes, but there was one in Smithdown Road, Smithdown Picture Playhouse, there was the Magnet in Wavertree Road, there were two in Kensington, umpteen in town, (indecipherable) more than the pubs, probably, possibly! A Gaumont, the Odeon, the Choo Churros, lots of them, cos there were no televisions, you see, different world, different (inaudible), now we’ve got it all in the, in your living room.

Jodie: Yeah. So, yeah, is there anything else you would like to . . . tell us?

Joe: No, I think that’s, that’s about all it, I mean. The other thing that was different in, in those years and, and, and didn’t change until after my National Service was people tended to stay in their own area, so, daughters in particular you would find living either in, either in the, the same street as their mums or the next street or two, two streets away. Boys might have moved another couple of streets, but they were local, they were . . . with the advent of, you know, different buildings, air travel, I mean, nobody went on holidays abroad in, then, I mean, boys go on holidays, men go on holiday, stag parties, to all kinds of places, Yugoslavia, and, you know, Czechoslovakia, I mean, that would have been a big holiday to, to people in the 1950s and early 60s, but with package holidays it, it changed completely, people started going abroad, suddenly the world was a much smaller place and, even I’ve been to America, so . . .

Jodie: Yeah! (laughs)

Tagged under: wavertree road, cinemas, pubs, police, tunnel road picture house, london road, smithdown road, bombsites, community spirit, kensington

Categorised under: Social Life

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